Detroit — You’d think they’d want to keep Eduardo Rodriguez bubble-wrapped between starts, right? At least keep him away from all forms of media, keep him from hearing all the praise and speculation about where his Cy Young-worthy start may lead him.
“I don’t think any athlete tries to hold their breath in between starts and complicate things,” manager AJ Hinch said. “They just go out and compete.”
Rodriguez gets the ball Wednesday afternoon looking to put his name next to Justin Verlander’s in the franchise record books. He’s allowed one run or less in each of his last six starts. Verlander has the most consecutive starts allowing one run or less, seven.
“We’re not trying to mimic performance,” Hinch said. “We’re just trying to compete against the group across the way (the Pirates, in this case). We go out and prepare for the next start. This league will humble you when you think you have to do the exact same thing you did the start before.”
Rodriguez has been on a remarkable run. He has allowed just two runs in 41.2 innings over his last six starts, with 41 strikeouts and six walks. Opponents are hitting .157 against him in those starts.
“I’ve had a lot of good starts and a lot of bad starts in my career,” Rodriguez said. “I know how to handle it. What helped me with that was just learning how to turn the page. I have a good start, I take the good out of it and prepare for the next one. I have a bad start, take the good out of it and go to the next one.
“That’s what I do. Just turn the page after every start.”
Rodriguez has garnered a lot of national attention, for two reasons. One, obviously, is because of his performance. Two, he has the option to opt out of his contract after this season which potentially makes him an attractive trade piece for teams in contention and also puts some pressure on the Tigers to possibly restructure his contract if they want to retain his services.
Rodriguez isn’t listening to any of that right now.
“You are always going to have good noise when you are doing good and bad noise when you are doing bad,” he said. “It’s part of being an athlete, whether you are a baseball player or a soccer player or whatever. You’re always going to have people saying good things and bad things.
“I just go out and do my job and let people say whatever they want. I just enjoy what I’m doing out there.”
This will be the seventh time in nine starts Rodriguez has started a day game. That’s coincidental, of course, but it’s been working. He’s got all four wins, a 1.58 ERA and a 0.723 WHIP in his day starts.
“I just go to bed early,” Rodriguez said with a shrug. “That’s the only thing I do different. It’s just another game, another day. I sleep the same amount, day game or night game. I feel like I have a good routine for both.
“I’ve been like that for my whole career.”
Going through it
Outfielder Matt Vierling is doing that thing again where he’s hitting balls hard and not getting any results.
On Saturday and Sunday against the Mariners, he made outs with exit velocities of 103, 103, 98, 97 and 90 mph. A couple of his long drives were run down on the warning track by center fielder Julio Rodriguez.
“I think his swings have been really good,” Hinch said. “He’s been unlucky. As hard as he’s hit the ball, next time we play Seattle I hope he doesn’t hit it to Julio Rodriguez as often. That’s a bad recipe for success.”
He even had a bunt hit taken away from him Sunday. He had the play beat at first base when the throw from pitcher Logan Gilbert hit him in the back. He was called out for runner interference.
“It’s one of the weirdest things when stuff like that happens,” Vierling said. “I’m putting in the time, working my tail off. I’m doing everything the same I was doing before. Then it goes a week, week and a half where I feel like I’m putting up good at-bats and there’s nothing to show for it.
“You just do your best to stay positive. I know this thing will pass. It’s a long season.”
He went through this earlier in the year. He had an 11-game stretch where he went 5 for 35. He followed that up by going 13 for 34 over the next 10 games.
Since he was drilled in the left wrist by a pitch on May 5, he’s been in a 1-for-28 skid.
“I was feeling under the weather for a few days there, a little tired,” said Vierling, who is still wearing a wrap on his wrist. “But I’ve felt fine the last two or three days. I’ve been hitting the ball hard. Just not having success.”
Maybe he needs a new tape job on his bat. That’s what he did before breaking out of his slump last month.
“His decisions at the plate have been good,” Hinch said. “His contact has been pretty good. And he’s a grinder by nature, which is something that’s always endearing to those of us in the trenches with him.”
Around the horn
Outfielder Kerry Carpenter (shoulder) has been cleared to ramp up his baseball activities. He’s been hitting in the cage and off the tee and he’s begun a throwing progression. Barring any setback, he could be sent on a rehab assignment by the end of the week.
…The Tigers claimed right-handed pitcher Seth Elledge off waivers from the Mets. Elledge, who pitched briefly for the Cardinals in 2020 and 2021, was designated for assignment first by the Braves this season and then the Mets. He’d allowed 11 runs in 14.2 innings with nine strikeouts and eight walks at Triple-A Syracuse.
… To make room for Elledge, right-hander Beau Brieske was moved to the 60-day IL. Brieske, out with ulnar nerve entrapment in his right elbow, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday.
… Right-hander Spencer Turnbull (neck) was back with the team Tuesday beginning his rehab program.
Tigers vs. Pirates
▶ First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM
▶ LHP Rich Hill (3-3, 4.35), Pirates: On paper, this should be a good matchup for the Tigers’ right-handed hitters. The 43-year-old former Wolverine has given up more damage than normal to righties (.298 average, .567 slug, .920 OPS and all eight of the homers he’s allowed). Hill brings seven pitches to the dance, but he’s been relying mostly on his curve (71 mph) and four-seam (87), mixing in a cutter (82) and a slow sweeper (68).
▶ LHP Eduardo Rodrigues (4-2, 1.57), Tigers: Try devising a game plan for this: Opponents are hitting .169 against his four-seamer, .119 against his cutter, .161 against his sinker and .091 against his seldom-used slider. The only pitch that’s been hit a little bit is his changeup (.286). His hard-hit rate (27.8%) ranks in the top 7 percentile in baseball. He’s allowed one run or less in six straight starts.